Basketball’s future takes center stage at the 2018 Les Schwab Invitational — with a nod to the game’s past.
Premier high school basketball teams from Oregon, California, Florida and Washington converge on Hillsboro, Oregon — tipping off Dec. 26 on FloHoops.com — with a bevy of elite college recruits in tow. Headlining the 16-team field is Sierra Canyon, ranked No. 7 in the USA Today national poll.
The Trailblazers arrive from the Los Angeles area boasting a roster rife with power conference-prospects, among them guard Scottie Pippen Jr. and forward Kenyon Martin Jr. The names are familiar, both of their dads starring in the NBA a generation ago, but make no mistake: the Sierra Canyon duo are making their own way on the hardwood.
Whereas Scottie Pippen Sr. was the consummate swingman, 6-foot-1 Pippen Jr. runs the show at point guard. Martin Jr. plays a style more closely reminiscent to that of his father, who gained fame as a hard-dunking, rebound magnet at the University of Cincinnati, and with the New Jersey Nets and Denver Nuggets.
Recruiters from Martin Sr.’s alma mater will be paying attention to the four-day Les Schwab Invitational; Martin Jr. is a 2019 Cincinnati target. Former NBA stars-turned-college coaches Penny Hardaway (Memphis) and Patrick Ewing (Georgetown) will also have interest in Sierra Canyon’s showing at the Invitational.
While basketball’s future takes cues from the past at Sierra Canyon, the Trailblazers have more to watch at the Les Schwab Invitational. Shooting guard Cassius Stanley is the No. 26-ranked prospect in the nation for the class of 2019 per ESPN.com, with a laundry list of suitors recruiting him.
Sierra Canyon’s big three headlines one side of the bracket, tipping off Wednesday against Churchill High School from Eugene. On the other side of the bracket, the University High (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) big two of 2019 Duke Blue Devils commit Vernon Carey Jr. and 2020 five-star prospect Scottie Barnes commands the spotlight.
Carey is another Les Schwab Invitational standout with a professional pedigree, albeit from the gridiron. His father, Vernon Carey Sr., played offensive tackle for the Miami Dolphins from 2004 through 2011.
Carey Jr. isn’t blocking pass-rushers off the edge; he does his blocking on the defensive end. The 6-foot-10 Carey Jr. is a force in the paint, and the nation’s No. 3-ranked prospect in the 2019 class per ESPN.
Teammate Barnes, meanwhile, checks in at No. 2 among 2020 recruits. The 6-foot-8 forward boasts an all-around game with offensive moves in the paint and on the perimeter. Carey and Barnes are the highest-rated individual prospects at the Les Schwab Invitational -- and it’s no coincidence University High has the tournament’s highest USA Today national ranking at No. 4. The Sharks open the Invitational Wednesday against Tigard High School.
Rounding out the Top 100 recruits headlining the Les Schwab Invitational, Gonzaga Prep’s Anton Watson is a 6-foot-9 star ranked No. 55 by ESPN. He has committed to remain in Spokane with Mark Few’s Zags.
Along with the high-profile teams from out-of-state competing in Hillsboro, the Les Schwab Invitational brings together some of Oregon’s very best teams. Among them is Portland’s Grant High School, which could face University on Thursday with a win over Central Catholic (Portland) on Wednesday.
Grant point guard Aaron Deloney is the state’s No. 2-ranked 2019 recruit, per 247Sports.com, and a commit to perennial mid-major contender, Vermont.
On the other side of the bracket, Jefferson High School faces South Salem on Wednesday.
Jefferson features Washington Huskies signee Marcus Tsohonis, a 6-foot-3 point guard and the No. 1-ranked recruit in Oregon for 2019. Tsohonis’ repertoire includes an ability to get to and finish at the rim, and uncanny court vision.
Said Washington coach Mike Hopkins in a release following the guard’s signing last month, Tsohonis, “is one of the best passers that we've seen. He will be able to help us take our program to the next level with his leadership.”
LES SCHWAB INVITATIONAL SCHEDULE
Lake Oswego (Oregon) vs. Southridge (Beaverton, Oregon)
Winner/Loser plays Game 8 participants
Grant (Portland, Oregon vs. Central Catholic (Portland, Oregon)
Winner/Loser plays Game 7 participants
West Linn (Oregon) vs. Skyview (Portland, Oregon)
Winner/Loser plays Game 5 participants
Barlow (Greshman, Oregon) vs. Jesuit (Beaverton, Oregon)
Winner/Loser plays Game 6 participants
Jefferson (Portland, Oregon) vs. South Salem (Oregon)
Winner/Loser plays Game 3 participants
Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, California) vs. Churchill (Eugene, Oregon)
Winner/Loser plays Game 4 participants
University (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) vs. Tigard (Oregon)
Winner/Loser plays Game 2 participants
Gonzaga Prep (Spokane, Washington) vs. Columbia Christian (Portland, Oregon)
Winner/Loser plays Game 1 participants
Kyle Kensing is a freelance sports journalist in southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.